Fasting Has Benefits, but Dangers Abound

Abbey Massage, Reporter

A lot of people considered dieting, but is fasting the right way to go?

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Studies have shown that fasting has health benefits for those who are overweight or want to lose weight, but there are risk factors along with it.

According to Matt Mattson, chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute, fasting reduces the risk of obesity and other related diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Mattson did a study in the 1980s evaluating rats to show if their lifespan would increase or decrease because of fasting. It turns out that the rats’ lifespan increased significantly when they fasted every other day.

Not only did Mattson discover the increased lifespan, it also helped with cancer. If someone had cancer and was fasting while doing chemotherapy, the cancer cells were more vulnerable to be killed because of the reduction of glucose.

There are different types of fasting, one of which is called the 5:2 diet. This diet is when individuals can eat anything they want for five days, but must limit themselves to 500 calories for two consecutive days.

Studies have shown that this diet benefited health issues like glucose regulation, loss of belly fat, and Type ll diabetes.

Sharayah Carter, a dietitian and Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Australia believes the 5:2 diet shows promise.  

“So this is a really good news for people with Type ll diabetes who need to lose weight or improve their blood glucose control,” Carter said, “because they can choose to do this diet twice a week instead of doing daily diet, which may be easier for some people to achieve.”

People who did this diet lost the same amount of weight compared to people who restrict their food intake on a daily basis.

A couple, Keith Taylor and his wife, have been fasting for about a year and a half.

Taylor said, “For six days per week we don’t eat until around 5 pm, but eat as much as we want and whatever we want from 5 p.m. until we go to bed.”

Since the couples has fasted, they’ve maintained a healthy body weight, been more alert, more energized, had less stress, and less prone to accidents.

“I already feel as though I’m getting younger,” Taylor said.

Even though fasting shows health benefits, it can be very dangerous.

The UK’s National Health Service reports that there are many short-term side effects of fasting which includes headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, dehydration, and abnormal heart rhythms.

This diet could also cause heartburn which is the lack of food that leads to a reduction of stomach acid.

Along with short-term side effects, it has long-term effects on the body as well. Fasting can cause harm of the immune system and damage organs like the liver and kidney.

If someone is used to eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between meals, fasting could be a major challenge. Because of this, it could increase stress levels and disrupt sleep.

Even though people have had great experiences with fasting, stay cautious about the risk factors.